Wearing a Royals cap, former Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Ryan Lilja once again stood in the spotlight on Tuesday night at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, his alma mater.
Lilja, a 2000 graduate, gave a short speech at halftime of the boys basketball game and presented the Cougars with a Wilson golden football. The ceremony was affiliated the NFL’s ongoing Super Bowl 50 celebration, which recognizes high school programs that have produced Super Bowl players and coaches.
“There’s a lot of people probably more qualified to give you guys advice than someone who lived a nine-year-old’s fantasy birthday part on television, essentially, playing the game for 10 years,” Lilja said. “I’m glad to be back here.”
Lilja, who played in two Super Bowls with the Indianapolis Colts, thanked his mother for being his hero. He also encouraged Shawnee Mission Northwest High School athletes to focus on the process rather than the results.
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“At the end of the day, the rings and the golden balls are pretty cool and I’m honored to be a part of a couple of these 50 Super Bowl teams, but it’s all about the process and the journey,” Lilja said.
Lilja originally signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2004 out of Kansas State University. He was waived by the Chiefs and picked up by Indianapolis, where he played five seasons. He was a member of the Colts on Feb. 4, 2007, when they defeated Chicago 29-17 in the Super Bowl.
He returned to the Chiefs in 2010 and played 45 games in three seasons with his hometown squad.
A 6-foot-2, 290-pound offensive lineman, Lilja finished his NFL career in 2013 after playing the preseason with the Denver Broncos. He started 104 of his 111 NFL games across 10 seasons.
Shawnee Mission Northwest will display the golden football, along with a framed arrangement that includes a signed Colts jersey, a short Lilja biography and a set of SM Northwest varsity letters.